Over the past few years, I have written many hundreds of thank you cards. A wonderful thing about our society is the idea of reciprocity. A major life event occurs and the people who care about you lift you up. They carry you to this new place and then help you build up something where there was nothing before. In my case, those major events were a marriage and a birth. My family, my friends, my parents’ friends, all provided us with the outward makings of our new lives. They gave us the pots to cook with and the lamps to read by. They gave us quilts to keep us warm and art to make our home. They provided a glider to read stories in and bouncers to calm. Diapers to change and clothes to wear. Reciprocity means that when the people I love are on the verge of something new, I will help them build their new lives as well. I realize in these moments of giving and receiving how connected I am to other people and how much those connections matter.
Because the truth is that it isn’t about the pots and the quilts and the onesies. It is about the fact that other people showed up. They listened to stories and nervous chatter. They made dinner and rocked a crying newborn. People are, often, wonderful.
What I have come to realize is that I enjoy writing thank you notes. I get out stationary and my nice pen and surround myself with the necessary address book and stamps. And then I stop and consider why it is that I am thanking this person, and it is always for more than the obvious. The latest round of notes began as a way to thank people for my son’s birthday gifts, but in that pause before I start to write, I realized that what I really wanted to thank everyone for was for being there this past year. The people who came to my kid’s party are the ones who came to the hospital or made dinners. They are the ones who stopped by when I needed company. They are the ones who answered the phones. They were there, and I believe that is worth being thankful.
I think that thank you notes are about so much more than acknowledging a gift. They are an opportunity to tell the people who go out of their way for us that we notice what they have done and that it has mattered. That we see kindness and thoughtfulness in their actions and want them to know that those qualities made a difference to us. A well written note is the least I can do for the people who help me build.